Ranging from Alliums (onions, chives, and garlic) to Zingiber (ginger), the volume's first section provides horticultural information for each of the sixty-three herbs found in the National Herb Garden's Culinary Garden, including common and botanical names, family, place of origin, hardiness, and general light and soil requirements. Botanical sketches accompany many of the entries. Each entry also includes a short history of the herb, gardening basics, and suggestions for using the herb in your kitchen. Culinary herbs without Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) Status are included in a separate section, with an explanation of their history and ornamental value. An informative introduction to this section compares several different definitions of the word herb, explains the advantages of fresh over dried herbs, describes the proper storage and use of spices, and suggests the best timing and methods for harvesting herbs.
In the second part of the book, HSA members offer classic and creative recipes for more than two hundred dishes incorporating a variety of herbs. Learn how to use the aromatic and flavorful herbs in your garden to enhance stews and casseroles, create dips and pestos, and add a new dimension to your favorite liqueurs. Among the mouth-watering recipes featured are Lemon Basil Tea Bread, Chicken Linguine with Fennel and Tarragon, Five-Herb Pasta Salad, and Rosemary Fizz.
The concluding section of the book contains a fascinating personal tour of the two-and-one-half-acre National Herb Garden, which lies in the heart of Washington, D.C., at the center of the United States National Arboretum, and of its various themed areas, including the Knot Garden, the Antique and Heritage Rose Garden, the Dye Garden, the Colonial Garden, the Native American Garden, the Beverage Garden, the Medicinal Garden, and many others. Complete plant lists accompany the description of each garden.
Green thumbs and gourmets alike will find inspiration in these pages to look at herbs in new ways--perhaps to see beyond their cupboards and into their own yards for ways to liven up their meals--and will gain the knowledge and confidence to grow and use herbs effectively. More than a gardening book, more than a cookbook, The Herb Society of America's Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs will prove to be an indispensable companion for all herb lovers.
About the Author
Susan's Book Reviews
Just when I think that I have all the books about herbs that I could ever want, along comes another must-have book to tempt me! I couldn't resist The Herb Society of America's Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking With Herbs, just published this month. Edited by long-time herbalist Katherine K. Schlosser, it's one of the best, most authoritative guides I've seen recently.
The book is divided into three sections. Part One contains horticultural information about each of the 63 culinary herbs grown in the National Herb Garden, a long-time project of the Herb Society of America (HSA). If you're new to herbs, you'll appreciate the reliable, easy-to-read information for each herb. It will help you decide which plants and/or varieties are hardy in your area, which will grow on your kitchen window sill, and what kind of culture the plant needs. But even if you're knowledgeable about the "useful plants," you're sure to find something new and interesting in each of the 63 herbs. You'll learn, for example, why caraway is often called "German cumin," why dill and fennel seeds were once known as "meeting seeds," and how to turn a woman into an ideal housewife (for the answer, check out the mustard entry). There's also a section on herbal trees, such as cinnamon. Okay—'fess up, now. I'll bet you didn't know that this favorite spice comes from the bark of a tree!
If Part One of the book is informative, Part Two—the recipe section—is simply delicious. These recipes, all contributed by members of HSA, were selected for their originality and taste appeal. Each was tested, and the tester's notes included with the recipe. From appetizers (Rosemary White Bean Puree, Herb-Roasted Garlic) to desserts (Saffron Cake, Lemon Basil Tea Bread), there's an herb-flavored dish that will make the meal special.
The book's Part Three is a special bonus: a tour of the National Herb Garden in Washington D.C., with wonderful photos and helpful plant
lists for each of the main gardens. The book, whose profits are dedicated to the support of the intern at the National Herb Garden, is fully
documented and includes a comprehensive bibliography. It belongs on your bookshelf!
Remedies for an Herbal Garden
Leon: Back when we were writing our gardening book we decided to write a short chapter on growing herbs in our wet climate. We introduced it by admitting that we didn’t know much about growing herbs but several of our former students had been successful with the commercial production. We wrote four or five pages, pointing out that most herbs had originated in the much drier Mediterranean area. Some of the mints grew well in wet soil but most of the others required very good drainage. Then we gave instructions we had gotten from students: start the plants in pots, water sparingly, and plant in a rock garden sort of place. We submitted it to the LSU Press, who sent the manuscript off to a gardening expert in Michigan. The comment on our herbal chapter was especially embarrassing. “The writers introduce the chapter by stating that they know very little about herbs and use five pages, proving it.” Fortunately, other outside readers thought the manuscript was good, so it was accepted and turned over to a local copy editor, who said that the book would be too long. We cut the herbs chapter and a few other gems out of the book.
Now, fast forward to this month: September, 2007. The LSU Press is publishing a book, written by members of the Herb Society of America, edited by Katherine K. Schlosser, and called: The Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs. The first chapter is called “Growing and Using Herbs”. I read the part on Growing Herbs to see where we might have gone wrong in the gardening book. Friends, in a page and a half, the book says exactly what we wrote. Pay attention to the cold hardiness zones published by the USDA, but not too much attention—you can create protective micro-climates. Keep the pH range at around 5.5 to 6.0. Then they emphasize our main point: “For most herbs, drainage is almost as important as hardiness zones.” They explain this more briefly than we did but we agree entirely. For some reason the roots of most herbs will die in soils that don’t drain well. This is the reason we used the rock garden approach. “They” say you should add more compost and the suggestion is good except down here where it rains. You need some sort of raised bed.
Ed: In the interest of academic integrity, we should add that the LSU Press family are close friends who help us with ideas and inspiration. They also provided us with an advance uncorrected proof of the herb book. We would have accepted a gratuity for promoting the book—but they offered us nothing. We are telling you about the book because we like it and think you will also. It is divided into three parts: The Culinary Garden, Recipes, and The National Herb Garden: America’s Garden. As Leon said, the first part of section one gives general guides to growing techniques. That is followed by descriptions of the herbs being used in the recipes, plus conditions under which they (might) grow pretty well. Section two is a large collection of recipes that members of the Herb Society have submitted. Being twentieth century, cornbread and peas people, we can’t comment on the recipes but some friends who have tried them say they are pretty good. Actually, they do have an interesting recipe for sage cornbread: add finely chopped sage and a few corn niblets to the standard cornbread mix. There is one for sautéed spicy collards, another for spicy tomato grits, and a sweet potato pie that sounds interesting. (They add peach brandy and lemon juice to the sweet potatoes, but don’t realize that sweet potatoes should be baked instead of boiled.)
Leon: I am not going to comment on the recipes because I already know how cornbread, collards, grits, and sweet potatoes should be cooked. I was interested in the various topics of section one. The National Herb Garden committee gives a good and badly needed definition of an herb. I won’t quote the entire paragraph but it begins with: “The term ‘herb’ refers to seed-bearing, generally fleshy annuals, biennials, and perennials, aromatic or useful shrubs, vines, and trees….” After thinking that over, I realized that coffee is an herbal extract. In section three the Herb Society lists Coffea arabica as an herb in the beverage garden.
Section one also has excellent descriptions of the herbs used in the culinary garden. Several of them caught my attention. Asafetida was a word that I knew well but didn’t think of it as an herb. You country folk from the earlier Century probably remember that, when you had an ailment that nobody quite understood, the accepted treatment was to tie some asafetida in a small cloth bag and tie it around your neck. Boy, did it smell bad! The book says that: “The high content of sulfur compounds in asafetida gives it a strong odor of garlic.” Friends, that ain’t the half of it. The stuff smells much worse than garlic. Like most old timer remedies, it worked—eventually. This was probably because it smelled so bad that you stayed at home. The book says that asafetida is a resin produced by a plant called Ferula assa-foetida. The common name for it in Middle Eastern countries is “devil’s dung”. To be used as a culinary herb, a small amount of the resin is dissolved in olive oil, and added to some legumes, meatballs, and pickles. At one point, the writer of the article says: “As a powder asafetida is less pungent, though still strong enough to make one wonder who first added it to food.”
Ed: After looking over the lists of herbs I began to wonder which of them I might be able to grow and whether I really want to. Several years ago a friend discovered that he could grow dwarf basil in pots. They made attractive, bushy plants and every year he gave me a few more. I accepted these graciously, as good gardening etiquette demands, but never used a single leaf in cooking. For several years I had a planting of re-seeding garlic chives but they seem to have given up. I usually have a couple of pots of shallots but my wife, Rosemary, usually buys her cooking supply at a store. We have a beautiful rosemary plant that hasn’t been cut except to keep it from taking over its space.
Although we are still not very strong on using culinary herbs other than the old tried and true: onions, garlic, mildly hot pepper, and hot water extracts of Community Coffee, we enjoyed the book and think you might, also. One important point the authors have made in their list of herbs and their reported uses is the placement of an * to denote that the herb does not have GRS, Generally Recognized as Safe status. This is particularly important with plants listed in the Native American Garden and the Medicinal Garden. It says that Indians used poke weed to treat rheumatism. Poke weed makes pretty good greens in the early spring but I don’t think it helps your rheumatism. Also it says that Indians used mountain laurel for suicide. No details are given.
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Last Updated March 11, 2008 4:50 PM
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